• Pioneering theatre company Punchdrunk is poised to make Woolwich its new home later this year subject to final Council approval. *
• The Royal Borough of Greenwich’s multi-million pound investment will see the historic military complex transformed into a major cultural destination, home to a number of creative companies
• The vision to create a world class cultural destination is balanced with tangible community benefits including discounts for residents, spaces to hire at subsidised levels and 400 new jobs
• Residents voice their hopes for the future of Woolwich with a specially commissioned interactive photography project capturing the town’s faces and places
The Royal Borough of Greenwich has today revealed further plans for Woolwich Creative District, a new landmark destination for the arts opening in 2020.
Following a recent tour of schools throughout the borough with The Lost Lending Library, Punchdrunk is today announced as the latest company to relocate to Woolwich Creative District. Moving from the company’s current Tottenham base to a newly developed space, Punchdrunk will join a host of local, nationally and internationally acclaimed artists as a resident.
With almost twenty years’ experience creating boundary pushing theatre, Punchdrunk is globally renowned for productions such as Sleep No More (running in New York since 2011 and Shanghai since 2016) and The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable (London), Punchdrunk’s Enrichment projects create imaginative work with the same commitment to design and performance, targeted at schools and communities. Created with and for children, young people and participants, the ethos of this work aligns with Royal Borough of Greenwich’s commitment to placing the local community at the heart of Woolwich Creative District.
Council Leader Danny Thorpe said “The development of Woolwich Creative District begins a new chapter in this history of Woolwich and will make the town a destination for Londoners and visitors from across the country. Punchdrunk is a truly world class organisation and I’m thrilled that so many internationally renowned artists and companies are making Woolwich their home; cementing its position as a new cultural hub, which will benefit communities across the wider borough. We are absolutely committed to ensuring local people feel the effects of this development by embedding community benefits into leases and contracts across the board.”
Peter Higgin, Director of Enrichment at Punchdrunk, said “At Punchdrunk we’re really looking forward to moving our company base to Woolwich and joining the Creative District. We’ve already started work in the borough, touring our flagship literacy project The Lost Lending Library to primary schools and we’re looking forward to developing new projects with children, young people and the local community. It’s an exciting time for Woolwich and we’re proud to be joining a vibrant arts community.”
Previously announced resident companies include Europe’s first majority Black and Minority Ethnic orchestra Chineke! Orchestra, Woolwich-based Protein Dance and the Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair, with further residents to be revealed. More details on resident companies’ plans will be announced in due course.
Today it is also announced that the Operating Trust will be chaired by Dr Valerie Vaughan-Dick. Chief Operating Officer at the Royal College of General Practitioners, Valerie has had a successful career with multiple roles at a senior level in the public, private and voluntary sectors over 30 years. Further appointments to be announced.
With Phase 1 building work now underway on site, the Royal Borough of Greenwich has commissioned an interactive photography project which will be displayed on the perimeter’s hoardings. Residents of Woolwich, and the surrounding area, and those taking part in activities in the area are the subjects for this project which will be publicly displayed from March. As well as being photographed, each of them spoke about what they’re hoping for from the development. Scores of locals have contributed to the project; from Lesley, landlady of the Earl of Chatham in Woolwich, who said “to actually have performances on your doorstep will be really good” to Stephen, an artist from Thames-Side Studios, explaining “there’s a huge arts community here. Hidden.” Visitors and passers-by can scan QR codes displayed with the portraits to instantly listen to the subjects’ stories.
Woolwich Creative District is a hugely ambitious cultural development, comprising five buildings, totalling some 15,000sqm. The Royal Borough of Greenwich has allocated over £31 million for this project, an investment which hopes to deliver 400 new jobs, increase local revenue and drive up tourism in the town. Following a successful planning application process, works have already begun on site. Architects Bennetts Associates and recently appointed contractors Mace will work to realise the vision of creating a cultural destination on this ex-military, heritage site.
Rab Bennetts said “The five listed buildings that comprise the Woolwich Creative District are an extraordinary fusion of heritage, fine spaces, industrial sheds and new additions. It will be thrilling to see them come alive with visual and performing arts, placing the public at the centre of the Woolwich Arsenal project. It is also extremely rare but hugely impressive to see a local authority such as Royal Borough of Greenwich recognise the significance of cultural projects to urban regeneration by funding major cultural facilities on this scale.”
About Woolwich Creative District
Woolwich Creative District will be a creative hub in the heart of the Royal Borough of Greenwich. This influx of cultural events, companies, activities and spaces to newly renovated heritage buildings will restore the area’s creative profile and drive audiences to experience internationally acclaimed music, dance, theatre and art against a historically significant backdrop. In addition to providing a cultural resource for the local community, the site will attract visitors from across London, the UK and beyond and with the introduction of Crossrail, Woolwich will be easier to get to than ever.
Phase 1 work has commenced to transform the five Grade II listed buildings with three of the buildings set aside for Punchdrunk’s use. This phase will also see the creation of:
• A versatile venue in Building 41, seating 800 – 1200 or with a 1800 standing capacity, linking directly to an open air courtyard capable of holding formal events for 500+ people;
• Three professional studios in Building 41 (two of which can be joined to make one very large studio);
• Two community studios in Building 41;
• Three professional / education studios in Building 40;
• Two reception spaces specifically set aside for commercial use (overlooking the River Thames and the internal courtyard); and
• Generous public spaces and a café / bar.
Phase 1 work will be completed during 2020.
* Please note, the residency is currently subject to ‘call in’ process before the final lease agreement will be signed
Peter Higgin is a founder member of Punchdrunk. He is joint CEO of the charity and oversees all artistic activity with director Felix Barrett. In 2008, he established Punchdrunk’s Enrichment department, taking the company’s innovative practice into educational and community settings. His work is diverse: from magical installations in primary schools to large participatory performances in found spaces or long form storytelling projects in a care home. Since its inception, Punchdrunk Enrichment has engaged with over 100,000 participants.
Councillor Danny Thorpe Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich
From 23rd May 2018, Councillor Danny Thorpe became Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich. He is responsible for the overall political leadership, direction and vision of the Council alongside the portfolio of Community and Corporate Services.
Councillor Thorpe has been a Councillor in the Royal Borough of Greenwich since July 2004. He represents the Shooters Hill ward and was appointed to the Royal Borough’s Cabinet as Lead Member for Regeneration and Transport in 2014. Councillor Thorpe became Deputy Leader of the Council in 2016 and held the Cabinet portfolio for Regeneration and Sustainability.
Education has had a profound impact on Councillor Thorpe’s life and his politics. His passion for education took him back to the classroom so that he can support children, in the way he was supported. Whilst his career has spanned various sectors, every role has been about providing opportunities for others and has focused on community and youth work.
Councillor Thorpe grew up in the borough of Greenwich; a place he feels has given him so many opportunities. Therefore, he has set out his vision and key priorities as follows:
· Greater equality
· A greener and more sustainable Greenwich
· Meeting the housing need
· Fair and transparent planning
· Outstanding education for all children
· Boosting the Greenwich economy
· Financial transparency and value for money
· Greater accountability and engagement
Councillor Danny Thorpe wants to lead the borough, fighting for all residents and communities, lead a talented team of Members with resilience and determination to deliver a new vision, create opportunities and deliver change for every resident.
Dr. Valerie Vaughan-Dick (PhD) is Chief Operating Officer of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), having worked at a senior level in the public, private and voluntary sectors. The RCGP is a membership organisation for 52,000 GPs and works extensively to be the voice of General Practice and improve patient care in the UK and internationally. She leads the staff across the organisation and joined the RCGP in 2014 initially as Executive Director of Planning and Resources.
Valerie started her career with the National Audit Office where she qualified as an accountant. She worked on value for money and financial audits of the Departments of Health & Social Security, Overseas Services, Local Government and Housing. Valerie has been an Executive Finance and Resources Director in central and local government, working on financial and strategic management issues. She has been a Chair of an NHS Trust and is presently the Chair of Audit and Board Member of a Housing Association.
In 2008, she was awarded the HM Treasury Government and CPFA Finance Profession ‘Personality of the Year’ award for excellence in financial management.
Valerie has extensive experience in regeneration projects in London and says that ‘I am honoured to have been selected as Chair for the Woolwich Creative District Trust and am confident that working collaboratively through partnerships that the District will be a great success‘.